Dogs Can Truly Sniff Out Cancer, Researchers Say

Dogs Can Truly Sniff Out Cancer, Researchers Say Photo (cc) by ETersigni

Fido is more than man’s best friend. He could help save your life.

Research shows that dogs’ snouts may be more accurate than advanced laboratory procedures when it comes to detecting cancer. According to Bloomberg, University of Pennsylvania researchers use Labrador retriever Tsunami to sniff out ovarian cancer.

Researchers say she is more than 90 percent successful in identifying the scent of ovarian cancer in tissue samples, opening a new window on a disease with no effective test for early detection that kills 14,000 Americans a year. When found early, there’s a five-year survival rate of over 90 percent.

A canine snout has four times the amount of olfactory cells as a human’s. Italian researchers recently found that specially trained dogs were able to sniff out prostate cancer from urine samples with an astounding 98 percent accuracy, Bloomberg said. The study, which involved more than 600 samples, is the largest study completed on cancer-sniffing canines.

“Our study demonstrates [that] the use of dogs might represent in the future a real clinical opportunity if used together with common diagnostic tools,” said Gian Luigi Taverna, the author of the prostate cancer research, reported recently at the American Urological Association in Boston.

Dogs have been detecting cancer outside of studies as well. BBC News said a woman in England credits her spaniel for detecting a cancerous tumor in her breast. The dog reportedly sniffed and pawed at her owner’s breast until the woman examined herself, finding a lump. The cancerous tumor was removed and the dog’s owner underwent chemotherapy.

Right now, a large number of questions surround the concept of using dogs in a clinical setting. Bloomberg said:

Questions remain on whether one type of dog is better than another, how to systemize their use and the financial viability of any such system. As a result, most current research is looking at how to copy the canine ability to smell disease either with a machine or a chemical test.

The InSitu Foundation is working to gain Food and Drug Administration approval for a canine medical scent detection kit that would utilize breath samples to detect lung cancer. Still other researchers are hoping to develop a robotic nose of sorts that replicates a dog’s ability to smell disease.

I have two labs that I adore (except yesterday, when they dug up my newly planted flower garden). I have always been amazed at how perceptive they are. Both times I was pregnant, my dogs followed me everywhere and became overly protective and territorial with our house and property. My vet told me it was normal. She said dogs can often detect a pregnancy before the woman even knows she’s pregnant. Amazing.

Are you a dog owner? What do you think of cancer-sniffing canines? Share your comments below or on our Facebook page.

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